Yes, I have been known to indulge in the odd glass (or bottle) of wine on a Friday (or Tuesday) night… I realise it’s not that good for me, but it’s pretty much my only vice in an otherwise fairly healthy lifestyle (despite what you’re all thinking about my restaurant habit). And besides, we’re all going to die of something, right? (Sorry, I’m feeling a little morose in the wake of the Paris attacks last weekend… who knows how long we’ve all got – we may as well enjoy fine wine while we can.)
In an ideal world, we’d eat and drink in that order: sensibly lining our stomachs with alcohol-absorbing nourishment. But we all know half the time it doesn’t work like that.
Burgerfabriek: good if you’re on a low sodium diet
Another possible contender for my series of blog posts about restaurants near the Rembrandtplein (the hottest foodie area in town according to Thrillist), Burgerfabriek is open till 1 am and definitely ticks the late-night-beer-food box. Its flagship branch is actually on the Warmoesstraat, so if you’re out in the Red Light District it’s an option too.
The menu is a mix ‘n match affair: you choose your meat (three different types of beef, plus chicken and vege), decide how much of it you want (200g or 270g), and then load it up with toppings. I tried the Black Angus USA (200g is more than enough) with bacon and cheese, which seemed like fittingly American toppings for the meat. Thankfully, the cheese was Old Amsterdam and not those dreadful squares of orange plastic. The bread was the perfect texture too: firm but not crusty, so the juices don’t soak straight through, but neither do you lose half your fillings as soon as you bite into it.
The Honey Badger chose the Wagyu burger, and topped it with some jalapenos – just because. I tried it, and couldn’t tell the difference between the Wagyu beef and my €2.50 cheaper American beef. What’s more, neither of the two burgers were properly seasoned. Beef without salt is a waste of good meat, as far as I’m concerned. But with all that being said, the quality of the ingredients was good and the Honey Badger is desperate for me to give them four stars not three. I’ve not yet made up my mind, but by the time you’re reading this, you’ll be able to see for yourself.
Café de Paris: just as bad as its predecessor
A friend of mine once told me a horrific story about Bar Italia that involved a couple of mice and an overly emotional waiter. Bar Italia has now morphed into Café de Paris, so I was hoping things may have improved. Sadly, there wasn’t much evidence of that. After waiting to be noticed for about 20 minutes, we looked at the menu. From the name of the place, I assumed it would be classic French – instead it seemed to be some sort of French-Italian-Dutch hybrid. I thought we’d left all that behind in the 90s.
I was with colleagues, so we got through a few dishes: conchiglioni was soggy pasta with chorizo and too much oil. The Italians would have had a fit. The sausage was good (because it came from Brandt & Levie) but the potatoes accompanying it were undercooked and the sauce was watery. Steak tartare was fine, although the egg yolk on top was supposedly smoked – I saw neither the point of that, nor any evidence of it. Everything seemed rather expensive for what was essentially poor-quality eetcafe food.
The best thing about the meal was the sgroppino at the end – which was ironic since that had been the downfall of the overly emotional waiter in the Bar Italia story. What was more ironic still was that, although the sgroppino itself tasted great, the poor waitress making it was being terrorised by her unsmiling boss. I gathered the waitress was new and hadn’t mixed the drink at the table before. She was made to suffer for that ignorance in a way that customers shouldn’t see. And nor, for that matter, should she.
Rum Barrel: more drinking than eating
This review’s a bit of a cheat because Rum Barrel doesn’t actually advertise itself as a restaurant. It’s a cocktail bar that does “comfort food” – essentially bar snacks. For obvious reasons, it serves rum cocktails – and it does those very well. I had a good daiquiri, followed by several drinks that called themselves the “Ideal Cocktail”. (And they were. The hangover, however, was less ideal.) The service is also the opposite of Café de Paris – so friendly, you feel like the bartender is your best mate and you’ve popped round to his house for the evening.
But what of those bar snacks? Well, they’re a cut above your average plate of bittergarnituur. But they are all still – well, kinda fried. We tried pretty much everything on the menu: from chicken wings to quesadillas to crab rangoon. My favourite were the shrimps, which came in a properly fiery mayo-based sauce and were so good we ordered them twice over. The quesadillas had a few too many ingredients in them (in that half of them fell out when you tried to eat it) and not enough salt – but they weren’t deep-fried, which made a change. The chicken wings were pleasantly crispy, but didn’t taste much of the marinade they’d supposedly been dipped in. The crab rangoon tasted of cheese rather than of crab – which wasn’t a bad thing, but wasn’t quite what I had in mind either. Plus, despite getting through the entire menu, we were still a bit peckish by the end of it all.
But for all this, I’m giving Rum Barrel four stars. And you want to know why? Because it’s the only one of the three I’d actually want to go back to. They don’t purport to be a restaurant, so I can’t really critique them as one. The drinks are good; the service is excellent; and the food is certainly a little different to a portion of bitterballen and plate of oude kaas. I only have one request to Rum Barrel: where’s the jerk chicken?!